I read a couple of articles earlier this week in Stage Directions Magazine about two Shakespeare companies that are experiencing some financial woes of late. Despite having a record season, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is running a $700,000 deficit. More on that story here.
Even worse off is the Milwaukee Shakespeare Company that had to abruptly close its doors mid-season.
In both cases, a lack of financial support in the current economic market is a major factor.
Denver Post theatre critic John Moore pointed out in his last column that, here in Denver, a third of the existing theatre companies do not have any upcoming shows scheduled.
The current state of the economy is considered the main culprit.
Now, I am not an economist, but it seems to me that when we talk about the economy we are really talking about people spending money. Money doesn't spend itself (though at times it may seem like it.)
If people aren't spending money, people aren't making money, and lo and behold the economy takes a downslide. Now, yes, there are a lot of other factors, and there has been some seriously fproblematic handing out of loans and such over the last few years that have put us in the situation we are in, and those things will have to be dealt with as best we can.
Notice, though, that I said "situation" and not "crisis."
"Crisis" makes for good headlines. It's scary, and scared people watch the news more often. The problem with that is that "crisis" calls for panic, and panic only magnifies things.
Look, gas has gone down a bit. Groceries didn't suddenly get more expensive. Things are really not as bad as the word crisis suggests. Things are tougher for some people than for others, but, what little I do know about economics is that the line graphs are very seldom made up of straight lines. Things go up, then down, then back up, etc.
There are a lot of "financial experts" vying for fifteen minutes of fame, and the ones that are going to get the most exposure are the ones who wave their arms the wildest and scream the loudest and whip us into a panicked frenzy the fastest. This is not true of all of them, but I think it's important to consider what people will do or say to get on TV.
So, where am I going with all of this?
Where I am going is simple. Go see a show. You are obviously a theatre aficionado if you are troubling yourself to read this blog. You love theatre. Put your money where your heart is, fly in the face of these overly dramatic doom-sayers, and buy two tickets to the comedy, drama, or musical of your choice. Just for good measure, drop a few bucks in the donation jar, buy a can of soda and a homemeade lemon square for 2 bucks. Even consider becoming a sponsor at the basic level or above. Nearly every theatre company has a sponsorship option (if they know at all what they're doing), and, if it's not listed in the program or on the website, the person who smiled and handed you the ginger ale can probably tell you something about it.
Now a couple of lemon squares and a $50 donation might not have been enough to save the Miluakee Shakespeare Company, but I believe that a helathy dose of consumer confidence just might have.
The economy is not something that exists outside of us. We are the economy. All of us. I'm not in "crisis." Are you?
I didn't think so.
Check out the Denver Post Theatre page and see where you want to exercise your economic influence.